Design, Plus the Mind
Last March the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law, setting into motion a stimulus package that aimed to provide relief to the American public and to jumpstart the United States economy in the ongoing battle against COVID-19.
As a senior user experience designer on the Ad Hoc team supporting the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and HealthCare.gov, Chelsea Badiola (PSYC ’16) applied human-centered design principles and techniques to create solutions that helped the American public use some of the resources provided by the bill. She worked cross-functionally to generate product ideas, create designs, and support end-to-end implementation of new solutions—all with three distinct issues in mind: Who is she and her team designing for, and what is the problem they’re trying to solve? What are the business implications? What are the technical constraints that they’re working within?
Working with the government provides its own unique experience, one that is both similar and not so much to Badiola’s work in the private sector and with community-based organizations.
“From a design perspective, there are so many hard problems to solve in the digital government space, but I think that’s what keeps it interesting. Our systems are complex, and it can be frustrating for many Americans.”
“[Government employees] have collected a lot of knowledge around some of the policies or some of the historical work that’s been done in this space, and they also have a great perspective of the problems that we’re trying to solve and why,” she says. “That’s one of the biggest differences, being able to work with a lot of different stakeholders. That can be both challenging and beneficial at the same time as a designer.”
That challenge is what intrigued Badiola when, during an Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program course on product development as an undergrad, she was first introduced to the idea of human-centered design, which uses processes that are focused on the people that the solution is being designed for, integrating psychology, design, and business.
“Ultimately, [it’s] being able to leverage my background in psychology and a desire to help people, and keeping that at the forefront of the work,” she says.
At Ad Hoc, a digital services company that aims to help the federal government better serve people, Badiola works with government partners on multidisciplinary teams, including engineers, data scientists, and delivery managers, to improve the experience of interacting with government digital services. This includes conducting user research to better understand how people interact with these platforms, and then turning these insights into design solutions.
“From a design perspective, there are so many hard problems to solve in the digital government space, but I think that’s what keeps it interesting. Our systems are complex, and it can be frustrating for many Americans,” she says. “How do you design technologies that make the experience of interacting with government simple and easy? How do you help people find what they need, and feel confident in their decisions? These are challenges with real impact, but I think that’s what makes the work so rewarding.”